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Sunday, May 19, 2024

Schenectady’s Seed to Supper Program Battles Against Food Insecurity


With the‍ rising cost of groceries, local‌ filmmakers Micah Khan ⁤and‍ Victoria Diana are looking to cultivate their own produce this year. They’ve enrolled​ in Seed to ⁢Supper, a program offered by⁤ the Cornell Cooperative Extension ⁢of Schenectady County.

“The cost ⁢of groceries is skyrocketing, so we thought why not learn to grow ‍our own‌ food,” Khan ​expressed.

“I’ve always wanted to learn this skill, but never had the chance,” Diana chimed in.

The program, spread over six sessions, covers⁤ everything ⁢from garden planning to seeding and harvesting.

“Our⁢ aim ⁢is to teach people​ how to grow a part of their own food ‌on a budget, from the beginning to the end,” explained Angie Tompkins,⁤ a community horticulture educator‌ and master gardener program coordinator.

The program, which is free,⁢ is ​designed to help those struggling with food insecurity, a problem⁢ that is increasing. According to a recent New ‍York⁤ state report, 16.6%‌ of adults in Schenectady County reported limited access to​ food. ​The numbers ​are even higher in Fulton ‍County (25%) and Montgomery (21.3%), while Saratoga reported ​16.3%.

The Seed ⁢to Supper program has been running in Schenectady for ‍a few years, hosted at the Sustainable Living Center​ in ‍Central​ Park. It has now​ expanded to other locations, including ‌Keane Elementary and the Salvation ⁢Army on Lafayette Street.

“The program⁢ has generated a lot of ⁢interest‍ and ⁤we wanted to make it‍ more accessible by offering it at different‌ locations ‌and times,” Tompkins said.

For Khan and ‌Diana, the program offers an ⁢opportunity to save‍ money and ‍learn something ‍new.

In‍ a recent session, they learned how to seed a variety of vegetables at the Sustainable Living Center. ‍These will later be planted in raised ​beds. The previous‍ session covered ‌composting and soil health.

“Composting was ⁣fascinating. I had no⁤ idea what it involved,” Khan admitted.

Rotterdam resident Dawn D’Arcangelo,‌ who​ was also attending the session, echoed​ Khan’s sentiment.

“Composting was my favorite⁢ class because I ‌love soil and it’s something I know ⁢the least ​about,” ⁢ D’Arcangelo said.

As a longtime⁤ vegan, D’Arcangelo hopes to develop a green thumb ‌through the program.

“I’m a first-generation‌ Italian American. My father could grow anything. He never taught us that skill, so I’m⁣ here to learn,” D’Arcangelo said.

Plant More, Give More

A group of women from the Messiah Lutheran Church in Rotterdam joined the⁣ program to improve⁢ their gardening skills for⁤ the Bread of Life Food Pantry at the Rotterdam‍ Community Center.

“We’re just trying to enhance our‍ skills,” said Jean Jones,‍ who leads the church’s​ garden.

“A‌ few⁢ years ago, we replaced shrubs and other plants in the parsonage with vegetables and herbs. We⁤ gradually⁤ expanded the garden, added raised beds, and even tried vertical gardening,” Jones ‌explained.

Jones, who has been gardening for years, ⁤first at her Schenectady home and now in Amsterdam, hopes to increase their yield through the ⁣program, so they can give more to the community.

For⁤ Schenectady resident Cassandra Williams, the program is helping her ⁤expand on her ​gardening skills that she started with ​a ​community ⁤garden.

“I ‌gardened for two years in a community‌ garden, and now that I have a bigger backyard, I thought I’d try ⁢this ⁤myself. This is more of a learning experience for⁣ me,” ‍ Williams said.

In the past, she’s had success with sage, tomatoes, collard ​greens, ⁣cucumbers, and peppers. She’s also come to ‌love the work that goes ⁤into‍ gardening.

“I love getting out there early in the morning,” ‌ Williams‍ said.

The⁢ physical ‍work of planting, weeding, and ⁢harvesting requires preparation well beforehand. That’s​ why Seed to Supper⁤ starts⁢ in February, delving into how to plan⁤ for various‌ crops and how to build healthy soil.

The​ program also covers basic care, including watering, fertilizing, weeding and pest management, as well as ‍harvesting. It also touches on the nutritional aspects of gardening.

Having a green space⁣ isn’t⁢ a ⁢requirement for the​ program. Those ⁢who⁣ live in apartments and homes without‌ a yard ‌can use container ‍gardening.

“The program has provided large containers to those who wanted them, ‌so they can ​transplant some of their​ crops into them,” Tompkins said.

Beyond growing a garden, the program⁤ also helps to build⁣ a sense of community.

“At the end of the season, we ​host ⁣Seed to⁢ Supper picnics. We⁢ ask participants to come back at the ⁤end of the summer and share their gardening experiences,” Tompkins said.

“Last⁣ year, we had a‌ young couple ‍who had never gardened ​before.​ They ⁤took the class and sent us pictures of their garden, which​ was filled⁢ with vegetables. It was amazing to⁢ see their success,” said Sandra Butts, the association⁣ program director for Cornell Cooperative⁢ Extension of Schenectady ​County.

“It ‍was so rewarding to ⁤see their‌ success, ⁤especially since it was‌ their first time gardening,” ⁤ Butts added.

Some participants have even gone ⁢on to take Cornell Cooperative Extension’s⁣ master gardener volunteer ‍training and become volunteers.

While the ⁤classes are full this season, Seed to Supper will ⁢be offered again next ​year. For⁢ more information, visit schenectady.cce.cornell.edu.

Kiara Thomas
Kiara Thomas
I uncover quirky and compelling stories. Always on the lookout for the 'why' behind the 'what'.
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  1. Disagree – The Seed to Supper Program needs more resources to truly make an impact on food insecurity in Schenectady.


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